Recently Emily Rapp wrote a beautiful piece in the New York Times called, "Notes from a Dragon Mom." (You can find it here). In it she talks about the heartbreaking and yet immensely love filled experience of parenting her son Ronan who was born with Tay-Sachs disease. A disease for which there is no cure, and which nearly guarantees a slow deterioration resulting in eventual death by the age of the three.
Ms. Rapp calls herself a "Dragon Mom," distinguishing herself from the much publicized and talked about "Tiger Moms" that stem from Amy Chua's book, "Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother" in which she outlines a prescription for raising a highly competitive and successful child. Ms. Rapp explains that because her son will not have a future in which he will go to college, get a job, and be an upstanding adult that she is freed from the pressure of setting limits and worrying about every decision she makes and whether or not it will affect Ronan’s ability to get into Harvard. In Ms. Rapp's words, "He can watch television if he wants to; he can have pudding and cheesecake for every meal. We are a very permissive household. We do our best for our kid, feed him fresh food, brush his teeth, make sure he’s clean and warm and well rested and ... healthy? Well, no. The only task here is to love, and we tell him we love him, not caring that he doesn’t understand the words."
The entire time I read this moving and powerful article, and for many days since, I have been unable to stop thinking about the many parents I know who are neither Tiger moms nor Dragon moms. Rather, they are the mothers to children who have a life-limiting illness with no clear life expectancy. They parent very sick kids, who have had numerous surgeries, dozens of hospitalizations, and more pokes and prods than anyone should have in a lifetime, much less a life of a few years. These children could live to be 2 years, 10 years, 20 years, or 80 years. No one knows.
And so, these parents are stuck in the awful place of feeling the need to set limits and create high expectations so that, if they do live a long life (as every parent prays their child will) they will be upstanding and responsible citizens. Yet, they always have in the back of their mind that they do not know how much time they have with their child, and thus, they want to give in to their wants and allow them to experience joy and happiness above all else, because they may not be here tomorrow, in a year, in 10 years. These moms are not Tiger Moms. They are not Dragon Moms. They are Tigon moms. And they, like Ms. Rapp, are an inspiration to all mothers and fathers. The Tigon moms (and dads) who effectively find this balance between limit setting and living life to the fullest every day, so as to never (or at least rarely) look back with regret show us all how to be better parents. Tigon parents have clearer, and yes, I would go so far as to say better, priorities than some of us parents who are not faced every day with our child’s mortality. We can learn so much from them. There are many "Tigon" moms who I know personally, all of whom have made me a better mom. Some of them may read this blog. Others will not. But they all deserve to know what a difference they have made in the lives of those who know them. So, to Christy, Sandy, Sara, Kim, Leighann, Sarah, Yolanda, Mercedes, Amy, Dina, Candy, Kelly, Kisha, Zuleyma, Beverly, Leticia, and so many others, THANK YOU!